Nicole Alexander’s world blew apart in 2008.
She was 31 and had recently split from her husband, the only man she’d dated since college. She left North Carolina and moved back to Great Falls to live with her parents. Alexander, an accountant, had no friends in the area, and months of job hunting had gone nowhere.
Bored and lonely one October night, she went to a Reston sports bar. Alexander, an avid boxing fan, knew the pub would be showing a match she wanted to see. Reserved by nature, she intended only to sip her drink and watch the fight. But when the two men next to her struck up a conversation, she welcomed the camaraderie.
One of the guys, a British-born technology salesman named Colin Mitchell, mentioned that he used to work as a recruiter and would be happy to put her in touch with other headhunters. He wrote his contact information on a napkin and walked out with Alexander after the fight.
Standing in the parking lot, they continued to talk for hours. Mitchell confessed that he was also in the midst of a divorce and understood what it was like to feel frozen in life.
“I could really empathize with her,” Mitchell says. “Being separated after being married, you’re not single — you’re in no man’s land. It’s really strange. I thought, ‘Wow! Somebody who’s going through this, too.’ ”
A few days later, Alexander e-mailed Mitchell to ask whether he would look over her résumé. Knowing he’d now have access to her address and phone number, she added that she didn’t normally meet men in bars and that she was only interested in friendship and expected him “to behave accordingly.”
“It was funny,” Mitchell remembers. “But I understood.” He responded with a few suggestions and then sent Alexander’s résuméto a friend who recruits accountants.
But their conversation at the bar remained in his thoughts, so on Thanksgiving he e-mailed to wish her a happy holiday. She responded in kind and sent a similar note at Christmas.
In January, after Mitchell’s friend had found Alexander a job, she e-mailed him with the good news. Secretly, she was hoping he’d suggest they get together to celebrate. “I wanted someone to take me out — just as friends! But I wanted some companionship,” Alexander recalls. “I thought he was a wonderful person, and I thought we really got along well. It’s so unusual to meet somebody as a stranger that you can feel so comfortable with.”
Mitchell took the bait and suggested drinks. Alexander countered with dinner and added that it would just be platonic. They met at Panache in Tysons Corner and talked for 61 / 2 hours. As Mitchell ran through his goals for the new year — taking cooking and photography classes, learning to salsa and traveling someplace warm — Alexander felt as if he were reading her own resolutions list.
“Everything that’s really important to me and that I really love to do he ticked off,” she says. “I thought, ‘Wow, we can really have fun.’ ”
The next week they went out again, to dinner, a concert and then dancing all in one night. Soon they were hanging out two or three times a week. They seemed to trust each other completely and could talk about anything, Mitchell says. Alexander continued to insist they were just friends, but when Mitchell dropped off flowers and gave her a gentle kiss for Valentine’s Day, “it left me reeling,” she recalls.
Although it was clear they loved being together, neither wanted to give their relationship a title. “I wasn’t bothered by us being friends because I didn’t feel free to actually pursue a relationship,” Mitchell says. “We were enjoying each other, and there was no pressure. It was a respite.”
That fall when both of their divorces were finalized, the two celebrated with a trip to Aruba. They felt free to think about a future together. Alexander couldn’t believe how much her luck had turned around in the space of a year.
“Not just to find a relationship but to find what I think most people are looking for,” she says. “I always say that with him there are no ‘buts.’ Usually you have a relationship and it’s, ‘He’s great, but . . . .’ He’s just great.”
“We just relate,” agrees Mitchell, now 45. “I kept waiting for the other shoe to fall, and it just hasn’t. If somebody asked me for one word, it would be ‘fulfilling.’ ”
Although they felt fully committed to each other, neither was in a rush to marry. But after Alexander turned 35 in 2011, they began to think about having a family. In October 2012, they took a 10-day vacation in St. Lucia. When the pair came home, they found out Alexander was pregnant. Their baby is expected to be born in July. “It’s really a blessing,” Mitchell says. “We couldn’t have scripted it any better.”
On Feb. 9, the two exchanged vows in front of the fireplace at the Morrison House in Old Town Alexandria. Twenty guests listened as the officiant, Leora Motley, recited lines from the poet Pablo Neruda.
“I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way.”
“I never knew this type of relationship existed,” Mitchell said before the wedding. “If it’s right, it’s right. Doesn’t matter what’s going on around us, we’re just going to enjoy .”